"The world hasn't ended for us," India's U-16 coach Bibiano Fernandes said on Tuesday after his team missed out on qualification to the FIFA U-17 World Cup by a whisker.
Needing a win to qualify for the age-group global showpiece, India crashed out of the AFC U-16 Championship following a narrow loss to title contenders South Korea on Monday night. Bibiano said, despite the defeat, his side "showed the world what India is capable of."
"The world hasn't ended for us," Bibiano said. "We go back and begin again. The U-16 Championship is over and it is time to look forward to the U-19 Championships. This was an experience and we go back enriched," he stated.
The coach said he was extremely proud of his side's performance throughout the tournament. "The boys gave their hundred percent in the match. We have shown the world what India are capable of. We pipped Iran in our group and finished ahead of them to qualify for the quarterfinals. The match against Korea proved that it wasn't a fluke," Bibiano said.
Bibiano's phone has been flooded with messages, including one from national team captain Sunil Chhetri. "Yes, he messaged me last night after the match," the coach smiled.
"His support means a lot to us, especially the boys. They look up to him and when he has said that he is 'the biggest fan,' it's their biggest inspiration. A big thank you to him from all of us," Bibiano said.
The Indians conceded just one goal in four matches, after 336 minutes of open play. "We know how strong a team Korea Republic were and we knew what they can do to us. We played our high pressing game with compact defending, but there was one moment where we fell complacent and Korea scored," Bibiano said.
"This team has the potential to go a long way and it is evident from the results that the team has delivered. It is never easy to play Korea Republic nor Iran, but this team showed that not only can we give them a hard time but also aim for a win," he added.